The Petaluma Leghorns are officially the best American Legion baseball team in the state of California. Petaluma defeated Southern California's Vista Marietta, 3-2, in a semifinal game Monday and once more on Tuesday, 3-1, to win the California Baseball Championships, at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville.
Petaluma will now travel to Arizona to play in the Western Regionals, which consists of the top eight American Legion baseball teams in the Western United States.
Through the first four innings of the championship game, the Leghorns couldn't buy a hit. No matter how hard they hit the ball, Vista Marietta defenders were there to make the play.
In the fifth inning, down 1-0, the momentum shifted to the Leghorns thanks to RJ Busse. On a 2-0 count, Busse unleashed a mammoth swing and hit a home run to dead center field that rocketed over the outfield fence to tie the game, 1-1.
With one swing of the bat, the game felt completely different.
"RJ's homer propelled our confidence and made us know we could win this game," manager Casey Gilroy said.
The next inning, Petaluma's offense continued to gain momentum. Ryan Walsh led off the inning with a textbook bunt for a base hit and then stole second base. Two batters later, Chase Stafford gave Petaluma the lead with a line drive to left field, scoring Walsh. After a Ryan Huag walk, Anthony Bender knocked in Stafford with a single to right field and the Leghorns had a 3-1 lead.
Petaluma's leader was pitcher Brandon Hagerla.
"Hags dominated on the mound and beat a really, really good team," Gilroy said. "He never blinked an eye."
Hagerla threw a complete game, after throwing five innings on Saturday. After giving up one run in the first inning, Vista Marietta had no chance against the bulldog on the mound.